By Lee Patty, VP & General Manager, NiceLabel Americas

It feels like every day we see a new warning about another major food or beverage recall. Just this month, Whole Foods pulled pesto products sold in five states due to undeclared nuts, and Frito-Lay recalled potato chips because of undeclared milk ingredients. Both these products – and many, many others – could result in serious or deadly allergic reactions if consumed, according to the FDA. For a consumer with allergies, this isn’t just alarming – it’s life threatening… but entirely preventable with proper labeling.

Ensuring food safety is critical for not only consumer protection, but also reducing financial and reputational damage to a brand. And when creating labels, companies must ensure customer safety as efficiently as possible and remain agile enough to deal with changes while complying with current legislation. For instance, recent government efforts include new nutrition facts guidelines that will require compliance by 2020 (or 2021 depending on business size).

But ensuring that your labels meet all requirements for safety can be quite complex. While the FDA protects consumers with specific guidelines for how food is labeled, ensuring all requirements and guidelines are met on packaged foods can be a challenge. For instance, prepackaged grab-and-go type items (such as prewrapped deli sandwiches, salads or sushi sold at supermarkets) may have a shorter shelf life that demands an extremely agile labeling solution, if changes to labels are required.

Regardless of the type of packaging, a key to food labeling is ensuring actual allergens, such as dairy, egg, nuts and soy, must be easily visible on the label, which often means bolding, underlining or color-coding particular ingredients. From label design to quality assurance and printing, the process of creating and distributing labels can be filled with issues – especially if templates need to be accessed and printed by different users across a store or franchise network. This is where a modern, cloud-based label system comes in handy.

For many companies, label design systems fall into IT’s specialized domain, which can quickly create workflow bottlenecks as only a limited few could access the systems to create label designs or make changes. Modern, cloud-based label management systems, however, can enable more business users with the right access and permission to create or edit labels – streamlining the process to reduce time and costs. This is especially significant for food and beverage retailers that manage many stores spread across large distances.

Another benefit to cloud-based label management systems is they can digitize quality assurance, which speeds design and printing. It also increases label accuracy through centralization, which improves version control and reduces the chance of printing the wrong labels. Alongside the benefit of centralization, a cloud-based system can provide a clear audit trail showing who made which changes and to what labels – ensuring traceability, security and compliance.

To meet regulations, answer increased competition, and retain customers, better labeling and safety for consumers is critical. To achieve this, food and beverage companies must be agile enough to adapt quickly and have the best possible processes in place to ensure the accuracy, availability and compliance of labels. This may mean implementing an on-premise or cloud-based system that, ultimately, helps protect consumers and reduce recalls.

Lee Patty is VP and General Manager at NiceLabel Americas. In this role, Lee oversees the company’s sales, project delivery and operations in the Americas. Prior to NiceLabel, he co-founded Niceware International, LLC, a NiceLabel distributor, where he was responsible for marketing, healthcare product development and professional services. NiceLabel acquired Niceware in 2013, adding Lee to the global executive team. Lee has over 20 years of AIDC industry experience and has also held sales, marketing and technical roles at Brady Corporation and Innovatec Communications.

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